Wanderings & observations – urban & rural.



Come along, walk with me,

and look through a different lens -

not the metaphorical one you learned about in school:

“What are your assumptions, your unconscious beliefs?

Through what lens do you view the world?”

No. An old camera lens,

new to me.

I ordered it online and it required an adapter,

because cameras like mine didn’t exist when the lens was made,

so I ordered the adapter and

it was the wrong one.

And I had to start again.

But eventually

the new-old lens got attached to the camera.


I have to use my other adapter

(my brain) to figure out how to use it.


It has a lovely way with things, even when you don’t focus it quite right.

You have to focus manually

and sometimes it’s


hard to see

whether the subject is in focus.

Or not.


But even out of focus

some pretty nice things can happen, and

one of these days

I’ll get better at using it.


We’re returning to form

here in the Pacific Northwest,

which means rain, clouds, and gray skies.

But this weekend, there were windows of opportunity, so

off we went, Saturday and Sunday, between showers.

We stalked birds and frogs in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley,

east of Seattle. We roamed the wetlands of Mercer Slough.



There were raindrops and sun rays, clouds and puddles.

There were noisy jays and a pair of Great Blue Herons loping

gracefully over a field with deep, slow wing beats.



The all metal prime lens

feels heavy and authoritative in my hands.

The lack of zoom forces one to walk closer or back away

instead of twisting the barrel. As I squinted through the viewfinder I kept forgetting

where exactly the focus ring was – my fingers unsure on the new lens.

But what a marvel it is – letting lots of light in and going softly loose

at 1.4 – everything blurred

except one spot.


When you can get it right.

These Shaggy scalycap mushrooms are supposedly edible, but not choice. Nearby a woman was mushroom hunting.

She carried a big, flat-bottomed basket and wore a furtive look.

I didn’t dare try to take her picture.

Leaves on the forest floor were a safer subject.


To end on a bright note, a late season Black-eyed Susan. I took this the first time I went out with the lens, three weeks ago.


Playing with my new-old lens is going to keep

my mind flexible, right?

A good thing.

For those who are interested, it’s a Super Takumar 1.4 50mm lens made by Pentax. Though it’s not expensive, it has a certain cult status for it’s “particular character” – a sometimes oddly golden hue, a quality build with sharp glass, and “ethereal rendering.”   I think mine was made in 1965.  (How many owners were there before me? What did this lens see and where did it go?).  It’s heavier than the lens that came with my Lumix G3, a small camera I bought because it does a lot well in a lightweight package. But the weight is not bothersome at all, the focus ring feels solid and smooth, and I think I’m going to enjoy this!

As for the slight golden hue, fall is a perfect time to go with that, isn’t it? But just a slight drag towards the blue end in LR brings it back to normal, if that’s desired.






Self portraits taken in a rough restroom at a ferry dock on Lummi Island, WA.

Fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium) seedpods shot at a park outside Seattle.

Header photo taken inside the car through the windshield, of branches in the rain.

All taken with my Samsung S4.

Ghost Ships in a Japanese Garden

In the murky waters of a

Japanese garden,

like ghost ships,

koi glide silently.








Orange and green,

above and below.


In the Japanese garden

the essence is emphasized -

the gentle curve of


the smooth texture of


the feathered tips of

maple leaves.





The Seattle Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum.

Foggy Island Saturday

On a recent Saturday – a blue, high-ceiling day -

I rode the ferry to Whidbey Island, where

the main road traces a curvy spine -

climbing and dropping,

climbing and dropping.

With no views

of malls.

It’s a world apart.

On the island’s west shore, a narrow strip of land fronts Admiralty Bay

(a bay that connects Puget Sound and Seattle to the Salish Sea and the great Pacific Ocean beyond).

It drew me in for a look.

Where the rock-strewn beach hooks westward,

a ferry idled in the fog. Fishermen gazed into dark waters.

Behind the driftwood-littered shore,

a marshy lake: its wet, salty earth stained red with Glasswort (Salicornia).

Known as Pickleweed and Samphire, the odd little vegetable is harvested

and eaten

around the world.


Grasses criss-crossed in the field, like a finely etched engraver’s plate.



On the road to Ebey’s Landing, fog,

thick as cotton, smudged a hillock of Douglas fir

behind an old farmhouse.

Bicyclists stopped for pictures.

Round the curve, down the hill…

park the car, step onto the beach…


I walked alone up the beach.

I found another wetland there, shrouded

in fog rolling in

from the Salish sea,

softening the colors

so subtly.




On the beach side, driftwood giants

rose up -

sky, land, sea,

wood, grass, rock -

all one.

Water is the common denominator -

mighty bull whip kelp sloshed

back and forth,

back and forth,

slowly washing up onto land.

Fog silvered the water.


It all left me




Whirling Golds and Bedragled Greens: the Pull of Fall













A photo of a neighborhood cafe that I took in April, 1973 on St. Simons Island, off the Georgia coast:


Hazel’s still stands, at 1166 Demere Rd on St. Simons Island, GA.  If you google the street view, you’ll notice the paint is long gone and the car no longer lurks in the background.

My maternal grandparents retired from Manhattan to a rambling home on neighboring Sea Island in the early 1960’s. We spent Easter vacations there every year. When I was old enough to drive I would borrow the car and go exploring. The best finds were places like this, that exemplified the island’s rich history, or discovering a small treasure trove of old 45’s (Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie) in a little record store on the mainland.  I explored a marshy pond off a back road and found alligators – a little too close for comfort – and a black bird called a Smooth-billed Ani, which was very rare in Georgia.

Some things endure, some don’t.

I’m white, and the privilege of my race and class afforded me many wonderful experiences in Georgia back then. Not so much the local African American population, most of whom were employed in service to whites, worked long hours and likely didn’t have the time and freedom to wander around anywhere they wanted, in search of interesting sights.

The ease of being Caucasian endures in this country, and the challenges of being African American can still be life-threatening.

Hazel’s cafe apparently endures too; unfortunately I lost the 45’s.  The nameless cafe in the header photo is probably long gone, and alligators are probably scarce in the area, with all the developments and golf courses, but the Smooth billed Ani is still considered a vagrant in Georgia.

(Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance)

In Stillness and in Motion










In stillness

and in motion,

the wet and the dry intermingle,

reflect each other, are





Photographs from Youngs Creek Falls in Snohomish County, Washington.

A Flower Triggers a Memory

On Saturday I walked through Mt Rainier’s colorful alpine meadows and photographed the views and wildflowers. It was a gloriously clear September day on the mountain.  Flowers long gone to seed near my home are in peak bloom now at 6000′, and species that would never show their faces at lower elevations were in evidence, too.

One little beauty revealed itself better after I got home and looked closely at the photo.  It’s called Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbrata) though it’s not a grass and does not grow on Mt. Parnassus!  A fine, squiggly fringe protrudes between the five delicate white petals, and the five stamens are split into glistening hooks. I probably had seen it before but I didn’t remember it’s name. When I looked it up and saw that it was called Grass of Parnassus, there was my mother’s voice, saying that name in my ear. I was instantly transported back to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

My mother especially loved the little wildflowers that grow close to the ground – the ones that demand a closer look. We would go for drives and hikes up in the Blue Ridge Mountains when I visited and she would point them all out – “Oh, that’s a Stiff Gentian – Nodding Lady Tresses – Grass of Parnassus.”  Under the trees around her home she planted the native wildflowers that suited her location, delighting in their return each spring.

In October 1998 she returned from a trip to another mountain range, the Italian Alps, feeling slightly ill. She made an appointment to see her doctor and a round of referrals began, which ended with the shocking news that she had pancreatic cancer.  A vital, healthy 75-year-old, she was never sick and rarely even caught a cold. In those days a pancreatic cancer diagnosis meant 6 months to live. Maybe.

She stubbornly refused to schedule any treatment until after Thanksgiving and Christmas had been celebrated according to family traditions. After the holidays her friend Martha drove my mother to Duke University Hospital, where she had exploratory surgery. I flew down from New York and waited nervously that day in the hospital, but it was a short wait – the cancer was inoperable.  A month or so later my mother began the grueling chemo and radiation regimen doctors prescribed as the next best thing to surgery. Every few months I came down to help out.

Late summer brought a brief reprieve in the disease course, allowing her to attend the local outdoor classical music festival she so loved.  And one day we  drove back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. She didn’t have enough energy for a hike, but we explored the rocks near the road, where she showed me the Grass of Parnassus.


It turns out that several flowers go by that name. The pretty little flower I photographed on Mount Rainier and the one my mother loved are very similar.  Both flowers reward us when we take a close look – the western version with it’s fancy fringing and the eastern flower with its subtle tracery of veins. Here’s the flower my mother showed me that day (photo by Craig Fraiser of Arkansas):

Parnassia asarifolia

My mother managed to celebrate one more Thanksgiving with her family. As Christmas approached she must have vowed to make it that far, no matter what.

At dawn on Christmas day she took her last breath in her own bed, the humble little wildflowers at rest underground in the woods around her home, waiting for spring.


On the Windowsill

OLD Buddha

in your flaming robes,


Sit until the color disappears,

and a shadow





















A RR Crossing sign…

the yellow rectangle in the sidewalk…

in New York City, a tree stump might be dangerous…

in Washington state, tree cutting is serious business…

a ferry’s emergency evacuation slide…

DO NOT ENTER THE WATER…and other ideas….

a weathered sign…

the Un-sign…

chalked instructions on the street.


Thinking About Signs:

From Buddhism and Postmodernity, by Jin Y. Park:

Language itself is…”an arbitrary sign system, and the “signifier cannot claim anything about the nature of the signified. Language functions on a tentative agreement between the signifier and the signified. That this agreement is tentative, however is frequently forgotten: in the naming process the signifier is identified with the essence of the signified, and this essence is further reified, paving the way to create a fixed Truth, which in turn assumes a central role in one’s understanding of the world and of being.”


Charles Sanders Pierce’s theory of signs, from the Stanford University online encyclopaedia of philosophy:

Basic Sign Structure

I define a sign as anything which is so determined by something else, called its Object, and so determines an effect upon a person, which effect I call its interpretant, that the later is thereby mediately determined by the former. (EP2, 478)

What we see here is Peirce’s basic claim that signs consist of three inter-related parts: a sign, an object, and an interpretant. For the sake of simplicity, we can think of the sign as the signifier, for example, a written word, an utterance, smoke as a sign for fire etc. The object, on the other hand, is best thought of as whatever is signified, for example, the object to which the written or uttered word attaches, or the fire signified by the smoke. The interpretant, the most innovative and distinctive feature of Peirce’s account, is best thought of as the understanding that we have of the sign/object relation. The importance of the interpretant for Peirce is that signification is not a simple dyadic relationship between sign and object: a sign signifies only in being interpreted. This makes the interpretant central to the content of the sign, in that, the meaning of a sign is manifest in the interpretation that it generates in sign users. Things are, however, slightly more complex than this and we shall look at these three elements in more detail.





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